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The GIFTED group from Louisville, KY

The idea to go to Mount Leconte started about 17 years ago when one of us along with our husband came across Mount Leconte on a day hike. We unfortunately did not have reservations and had to hike back down but always wanted to get back and stay the night. It took 17 years to assemble a very unlikely group of 40 something mothers, wives, working, novice hikers whose friendships have mostly started from our Catholic parish where our kids go to school and evolved as we stumble together through the trials and tribulations of parenthood. We started a group called GIFTED which is an acronym for GIRLS IN to FUN TIMES, EXERCISE and a DRINK that is our version of a Bunco group. We attempt to get together monthly but more like quarterly to attempt something new that hopefully will be physically or mentally active and always end with a good cocktail or two. Our activities up to this point consisted of things like bike rides, swimming, rowing, cooking class, skeet shootingand taking the Polar Bear plunge for Special Olympics. However, 9 busy women with 29 busy kids (that is cumulative not individually even though we are from Kentucky!) were able to get away for a few days to hike to Mount Leconte.

Our hike was on August 14th 2009 and started at the Rainbow Falls trailhead where we met our first couple and asked them to take our picture. When they found out we were from Kentucky they asked if we had any Kentucky Fried Chicken because there was a group that was attacked by a bear the week prior because they were carrying KFC in their backpacks. Soooo our group of novice hikers with varying fitness levels started up the mountain discussing what to do if we saw a bear. The answers varied from sounding our new alarms that we got in our hiking gift bags to shouting in some African tribal language which simulated grunting vowel sounds in a rapid fashion. We obviously were experienced!

The Rainbow Falls trail was beautiful, challenging and relatively uneventful. A few of us had to do a self analysis (or gut check)at the 2.4 beautiful Rainbow Falls stop knowing that we still had 4 miles ahead and wondering if we should turn back now. Everyone continued on and split into 2 groups based on pace. Unfortunately the slower group got caught in a torrential downpour with about 1 mile left. As we struggled though the last mile soaking wet, slipping on rocks and worn out we came across a father and daughter who had Down Syndrome who were struggling arm and arm. They were just enough of an inspiration to get us to the end. We found out the next morning at a breakfast that she was a Special Olympian with 3 gold medals in swimming. Awesome!

After we arrived we were happy to find much more comfortable accommodations than we expected. We dried out and enjoyed some hot chocolate in there creation room. We ended up walking in on a college student from Arkansas playing the guitar. He was joined by another guitar player from Ohio and they collaborated on what turned in to a very fun, relaxing session of listening to awesome music in our rocking chairs. We all agreed to hook back up after dinner and sunset.

The dinner was way beyond our expectations as the food was awesome and we all enjoyed more than our share of the one hour of unlimited wine! We then headed to an incredible view at sunset with narration from our favorite park rangers.

We reconvened with our musical and non-musical friends for a great night of music, singing and dancing again with our favorite park rangers. A memorable day and night for all was followed by a much needed comfortable night of sleep.

The morning was awesome as we limped .6 miles to Myrtle Point for a spectacular sunrise. It is well worth getting up early and the walk will help your sore legs. The breakfast also was delicious. Most of our group ate the pancakes as if it was their last meal before the electric chair only to be followed by eggs, ham, biscuits, grits, etc. It was more than enough to get you back down the mountain. We had a great trip down the Bullhead trail with incredible overlooks throughout.

Everyone in our group would highly recommend this trip. The beauty is spectacular and the Mount Leconte accommodations from the staff to the food to the cabins exceeded our expectations. The trip was incredible not only because of these things but the people we met along the way. We feel so fortunate. We would hope everyone, regardless of fitness level or age, takes this opportunity. Thank you Mount Leconte staff.

Best Regards and Hoping to Return,
The GIFTED group from Louisville, KY

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